April 24, 2002

Police Investigate C.U. Grad's Death

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Cornell University graduate student Raphael Kapfer died on Saturday morning after being struck by a car.

An avid cyclist, Kapfer was training for a planned trip to Montreal with a fellow graduate student, Daniel R. Schuette, approximately 14 miles away from Cornell in Virgil, New York.

Kapfer and Schuette were riding northbound on Route 13 near the Elm Tree Golf Course.

The Cortland County Sheriff’s Department, the Cortland Police Department, the New York State Police, the Virgil Fire Department, the McLean Fire Department and Dryden Ambulance responded shortly after the occurrence of the accident.

The Cortland Sheriff’s Department is leading the accident investigation.

Cornell News Service reported that Kapfer, 24, a Canadian citizen, was born in France and is a graduate of McGill University in Montreal. Kapfer enrolled at Cornell in 1999 to study physics.

“He was studying the effect of pressure on macromolecules,” said Prof. Sol Gruner, director of the Cornell High Energy Synchrotron Source. “Life on earth occurs at various pressures and he was studying the effect of varying these pressures on biological systems.”

Gruner continued, “[Kapfer] was a very experienced bicyclist. He and [Schuette] were riding, practicing for a ride they were planning for the summertime to Montreal.”

He added, “[Kapfer] used to ride all the way around Cayuga Lake.”

A news release from the Cortland County Sheriff’s Department reports that Kapfer was struck by a 1996 Ford Taurus operated by 82 year old Joseph Cinquanti of Dryden.

Cinquanti was issued two tickets for failure to yield the right of way while making a left turn and operating a motor vehicle without proof of valid insurance.

Lt. Phelps of the Cortland County Sheriff’s Department would not comment on whether any additional project would be brought against Cinquanti. The Cortland Sheriff’s Department is still investigating the accident.

According to Gruner, when the accident occurred the two cyclists had just passed over a hill. “They were coming down a hill. [Kapfer] was on a much faster bicycle than Daniel and was about 100 meters ahead of him coming off the hill.”

Kapfer’s cycling companion, Schuette, was not injured but was transported to Cortland Memorial Hospital for evaluation. According to Linda Grace-Kobas, director of the Cornell News Service, “Schuette witnessed the accident and tried to resuscitate him but was unsuccessful. I’m sure he was in shock.”

Schuette declined to comment.

A funeral will be held on Saturday, April 27, in Longueil, Quebec, Canada, Kapfer’s hometown.

Afterwards, Kapfer’s parents, Bruno and Elisabeth Kapfer, and his sister, will travel to the University for a service to be held on campus.

An informal gathering will be held on Monday, April 29 at noon on the seventh floor of Clark Hall, the Hans Bethe Auditorium. Grace-Kobas said that, “Kapfer’s family will be there. We will have people speaking and we will be serving food.”

According to the Cornell News Service, the event will not be called a memorial as his family does not want it to be called a memorial service. It will be a campus gathering to remember and reflect on Kapfer’s life.

Gruner added, “We’re trying to decide exactly what to do. We’re going to have remarks, not long speeches, something very informal as decided by his friends.”

He explained further, “we may have each person who wishes to project a photo on the wall and reflect on it.”

Rev. Janet Shorthall of the Cornell United Religious Works, describes the event as, “an opportunity for friends and colleagues to offer remembrances of [Kapfer] and condolences to his family.”

Shorthall added, “we want to make the community aware of this tragic and accidental death.”

For more information on the memorial service, please contact Janet Shorthall or Cornell United Religious Works. The remembrance will be open to the public.

Archived article by Chris Mitchell